Last minute heartache for Ardstraw in Craig Cup Final

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Last minute heartache for Ardstraw in Craig Cup Final thumbnailLimavady celebrate with the Craig Memorial Cup after defeating Ardstraw 2-1 at Fortwilliam Park, Tobermore.

IT was Boxing Day heartache for Ardstraw as a Robbie Hume goal in the final minute of extra-time sealed a cruel defeat at the hands of Limavady United in the Craig Memorial Cup final at Tobermore's Fortwilliam Park.

Ardstraw ...1
Limavady United ...2

Gary Simpson's troops suffered the same fate as they did in 2014, losing by a single goal to holders Limavady, who have now lifted the silverware for the third consecutive year.

In front of a bumper crowd, the Tyrone side started at break neck speed, and had their first chance within two minutes, winning a free kick on the right hand side of the box which McKelvey bent round the wall, for Wells to get down and parry, then blocking the rebound with an even better save. United responded with Morrison heading down for McKeever to shoot wide of the target.

But Ardstraw took the lead in the fifth minute, when another McKelvey free kick on the left was fired low into the bottom corner past Wells' outstretched arm.

The holders were visibly rattled, and for the next fifteen minutes they were clinging on, as Ardstraw had their tails up. Urged on by their large support, their only other chance was a Godfrey chance shot straight at Wells on fifteen minutes. Limavady's McKeever had another chance on 21 minutes, latching on to McCloskey's cross field ball and driving into the box before shooting wide. 

United were back on level terms on 25 minutes, with a typical poacher's goal from Robbie Hume, after a good move started with Conor McCloskey, before eventually reaching McClelland who got the ball through to Hume, who was able to confidently poke the ball home.

Lee Harkin was disappointed on 33 minutes as he was ruled offside when he had stroked the ball into the net. Moments later, McKeever collected a long ball on 34 minutes before shooting over the bar, and in the following minute he ghosted into the box to shoot just wide. 

After the break, United sought to take advantage of the blustery wind, and on 53 minutes Hume was awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, and bent the ball over the wall, only for Gailey to tip the ball over the bar. On 66 minutes, McCloskey sprayed the ball across to Hume, but the little hit man saw his shot brilliantly saved by Gailey.

Ardstraw were still a threat, mainly on the counter attack, and indeed it took a last ditch tackle by Crown to keep them out on 68 minutes. On 73 minutes, as Godfrey was unable to reach a loose ball before Wells finally claimed it. But the Roesiders were dominating midfield, and Lee Harkin shot wide of the post on 73 minutes. Then McCready cut the ball back to Watt dashing into the box, but he blazed the ball over the bar.

The game needed someone to take control, and in the last ten minutes it was Ardstraw who seemed more likely to grab a winner. On 81 minutes from a United corner Lee Harkin's close range effort was blocked on the line. Four minutes later, another loose ball in United's box failed to reach either Boyd or Godfrey before Wells finally dived on it. However neither side could force a decider in regular time. 

Within a minute of extra time commencing, Wells was again called into action, as the ball was stabbed along the goal line and the keeper somehow got down to claw the ball away from inrushing attackers. In the last minute of the half Ardstraw had another great chance, as Godfrey could not keep his shot on target. 

The second period of extra time produced little of excitement, but, just as everyone was anticipating a penalty shoot out, Ardstraw were hit with a last minute sucker punch, as a lightening counter attack ended with Hume one-on-one with Gailey in the six yard box, and he coolly slotted the ball home and break Ardstraw hearts. As United manager Paul Owens aptly put it, it wasn't pretty but his team got there.

Ardstraw had fought tooth and nail, but ultimately it came down to United, and Hume, who was the difference between the sides. 

Ardstraw: Andrew Gailey, Darren Boyd (c), Derek Matthews (Nigel Boyd 63), William Donaghy (Paul Fusco 50), Lee Warnock, Kristian Gibson, Samuel McKelvey, Gary King, Robbie Godfrey, Steven Campbell, Kyle Mitchell.

Substitutes not used: Kenneth Williamson, Philip Lowry, Kyle Mills.

Limavady United: Paul Wells, Johnny Watt, Bryan McClelland (Conor Murray 83), Graeme Watt, Hugh Carlin (c), Declan McKeever, Gary McFadden, Lee Harkin (Conor Harkin 83), Conor McCloskey, Robbie Hume, Blain Morrison (Joe McCready 61).

Substitute not used: Ray Kelly.

Referee: Gavin Taggart (Derry).


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